This week I learned that two of my travel photographs have made it through to the finals of the Association of Photographers Student Awards. The pictures are both of lighthouses – a subject that I seem to return to time and time again – from travels over the last 18 months to Scotland and Iceland. Both pictures will be on show at Downstairs at Mother London, a creative agency in Shoreditch, from 6 to 28 July.
One thing I sincerely love about travel is the opportunity to endure all kinds of weather (I wrote about this a little in my recent post about a visit to the north of Scotland). Landscapes are often at their best beneath cloudy or stormy skies, and for both of my AOP finalist pictures I had to get quite wet. The orange lighthouse is at Svörtuloft, near Öndverðarnes, the westernmost tip of Iceland’s storm-lashed Snæfellsnes Peninsula. A long drive over deeply cratered lava flows beneath heavy hail storms took me to this quite amazingly inhospitable and remote redoubt in March 2016. I was there entirely by myself, stung by the hail and stunned by the solitude, free to make the most of the bleak conditions without interruption. The resulting photograph remains one of my personal favourites, perhaps because every time I look at it I can almost taste the salty sea air and hear the hailstones clattering around me.
My other finalist photograph is of Muckle Skerry lighthouse, which sits on a tiny, uninhabited island in the Pentland Firth, the narrow channel between Scotland and the Orkneys. I made this photograph during my recent visit to the north of Scotland for my final university project. For me, the picture is a lesson in patience. I’d trudged along the north coast for hours under flat grey light and was heading back to my car when I could sense something developing: a furious storm passed overhead and out to sea, leaving me with a chance to chase rainbows as they danced out to the horizon.
The lesson here is simple: don’t hide away from awful weather. Of all of my travel photographs, it seems the ones that stick in my mind are the ones that left me cold, wet and tired. No-one said travel photography should be easy.